What's hot: Shallow-water, catch-and-release gag grouper fishing just before this last blow was about as good as it gets, and you don't have to go far to get in on it. Fishing a chunky patch of hard bottom along the edge of the ships channel just outside the Sunshine Skyway bridge provided a batch of would-have-been keepers during the last of the outgoing tide. We got a bunch on live baits, but our largest, a 16-pounder, ate a chunk of mackerel. We also caught gags on frozen sardines, chunks of ladyfish, shad and silver trout. The bycatch included mangrove snapper, the ever-aggressive Key West grunts and an occasional Spanish mackerel.
Gathering bait: It hasn't gotten too cold to catch a variety of live bait. After daylight we got all the whitebait we needed for the mangos between the gulf pier at Fort De Soto and the tall range marker just north of it.
What's ahead: We may have to put on hold for a few days trying out any new Christmas tackle. A projected midweek cold front will likely stir things up a bit.
Jay Mastry charters Jaybird out of St. Petersburg. Call (727) 321-2142.